“Welcome to the Anthems Tour,” Adam Ant – aka Stuart Goddard – announces, five songs into his performance on a Saturday night. “It means that we’ll be singing the words you hopefully know,” he drolly adds.
As the click-clack drum intro of Antmusic begins, a few thousand fans storm to their feet, cheering and hollering. The resurrection of Adam Ant as a freewheeling live force is a deserved reward for one of the eighties’ greatest mavericks. His show at Leeds’s First Direct Arena is a retrospective performance after full album recitals; and though his war-paint is gone, he remains as exuberantly eccentric as ever.
Support comes from Glam Skanks, whose brand of street-smart hair-metal seems at odds with the headline act. However, there is a fast-paced belligerence to their meaty rock ‘n’ roll, served up in three-minute slabs, that ticks the crowd-pleasing boxes. Frontwoman Ali Cat – part T.Rex, part Sleigh Bells – rips her way through the Sunset Strip-toting Wild Soul and Teenage Drama Queen with assurance, and though final track Glitter City may be rooted in dirty blues, it too fits their sybaritic, pleasurable sound.
Opening with the intense, frantic Beat My Guest, Ant and band – including two drummers – storm through two-dozen-plus songs with little respite between. There is an energetic bravado to his hedonistic showmanship; dressed like a cowboy Jack Sparrow, he rarely stops moving, dancing erratically with a swagger and voice to match. He brings drama to the buzz-saw guitar of Vive Le Rock; howls over the choppy Dog Eat Dog; adapts a mock-French accent for the jazzy Young Parisians. It’s quirky and campy in equal measure, but speaks volumes of Goddard’s self-confidence after a rather public battle with bipolar disorder.
He clearly enjoys his solo cuts in equal, if not greater measure too. Desperate But Not Serious sees him strap on a guitar to play the new wave aggressor, whilst the scuzz-pop of Can’t Set Rules About Love is impassioned brilliance. But it’s the hits that garner the singalongs; the militaristic art-punk of Prince Charming, the menacing rallying cry of Kings of the Wild Frontier; the rollicking, quirky Goody Two Shoes.
When the high-stakes theatrics of Stand and Deliver arrive, the sense of absurd fun is physically palpable. Theatricality in popular music seems almost homogenous now; but with his visceral wit and copper-bottomed classics, the sheer charisma of Adam Ant’s songcraft makes him the perfect trashy tonic for these times.